Spreading the Word about Thwarting Crime: The Latest Look at Public Health Approaches to Public Safety featured in National Institute of Justice Journal

Who knew that one antidote to gang activity could be Zumba dancing in a public park?

Ronald Davis did. According to Davis, director of the U.S. Department of Justice's Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) and former police chief of the East Palo Alto Police Department, "The greatest deterrent to crime and violence is not a community saturated with cops — it is a neighborhood alive with residents. The concept is that a healthy community would be, in fact, a safe community."

Davis helped to start a project called FIT Zones in East Palo Alto, which is just one of a handful of new approaches highlighted in the latest issue of the NIJ Journal that use public health strategies to solve community problems. “Healthy Communities May Make Safe Communities: Public Health Approaches to Violence Prevention” spotlights promising new projects and approaches that treat crime and violence like contagious diseases and that therefore look for innovative ways to prevent these "diseases" from spreading.

The article also highlights a project in Milwaukee, Wisconsin that is creating a first-of-its-kind data hub where researchers and law enforcement can look holistically at individuals and neighborhoods that have frequent contact with the criminal justice system and identify opportunities for prevention.           

"Once we have the data, we want to be able to share it with the community and with jurisdictions to help identify opportunities for interventions and then assess if they're working," said Mallory O’Brien, founding director of the Milwaukee Homicide Review Commission, a collaboration of criminal justice professionals and community service providers working to prevent violence from both public health and criminal justice perspectives.

The article outlines the underpinning of public health and public health collaborations, current happenings in the bourgeoning field, and some of the necessary next steps to spread these promising new approaches, ultimately concluding that more research is on about these strategies is a necessary next step.

“The challenge of policing in the new economy," said Davis, "is not to do more of the same with less; it is doing more things differently based on evidence and science."

Read the whole article.

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